Discrete Pig Service
by Andy Griffin
He stepped down from his forklift and handed me a business card with the profile of a wild boar printed in black dead center. Underneath the beast he penciled in an unlisted phone number. I took the card and read the words at the bottom - Discrete Pig Service.
The two of us had fallen into a discussion about pigs as he was loading my truck with cartons for our farm's broccoli harvest. With boar you can forget any image you have of cute curly-tailed Hollywood swine like Babe. Domestic hogs and wild boar may both be Sus scrofa to science but every farmer knows the difference. Opposites attract so, sure, boar will cross with their porky, rubenesque cousins given the chance to party together but the way your average hog producer sees it domestic swine are to be diurnal, short haired and smooth of coat with a neatly arched back, plump hams and an amiable disposition.
Wild boar, by contrast, look just like the fierce animal captured on the business card; massive shoulders support a brutish head with a long bony snout and sharp curving tusks. From their high shoulders a boar's back tapers to athletic hindquarters designed to propel the nocturnal beast through dense woodland thickets.
Wild boar have wicked knowing eyes open to every opportunity to root, scavenge, or kill. Since they were introduced into the Santa Lucia mountains south of Salinas as a game animal in the 1920s the wild boar population has exploded. No longer confined to the brushy heart of the Ventana wilderness wild boar now roam all over central California marauding cultivated fields along the fringe of the hills like barbarian hordes of old. Satanically possessed rototillers could hardly do more damage to a farm. I imagined that working in a carton yard that serves farmers would probably allow this forklift driver to meet a lot of growers suffering from boardom.
"If you got a problem with pigs I can clear it right up," he suggested. I grunted by way of an answer. I was thinking. When I was a kid I worked on a neighbor's ranch feeding a small herd of wild boar he kept corraled. We lived in upper Carmel Valley near Arroyo Seco. Boar country. My neighbor had shot a sow and discovered a litter of piglets in the nest she limped back to. Boar piglets are cute with cinnamon stripes that make them look like little hairy watermelons. When the piglets matured he bred the females to a boar another fellow had. Maybe we hadn't been fair to those wild pigs.
Domestic breeds of pig have no one to blame but themselves for their docility. A long past, maybe seven thousand years ago, some pigs made a social contract with our ancestors. "Feed me, care for me, propagate my kind and in turn you can kill me and eat my sweet flesh." Snicker, if you will, at the depravity of a creature whose sloth and appetite for food and shelter should have it betray a life of wild, uncertain freedom but remember those of us homo sapiens who crowd into cubicles and snuffle about harmlessly after a paycheck while our instincts atrophy. Under human attention pigs have been refined from shaggy boar into numerous sleek and tender breeds. But I, for one, admire the wild boar who have never compromised their savagery even though I would curse them if they tore up my own little domesticated farm scene.
"I don't horse around with traps or guns," said the warehouseman.
Webmaster's Note: This article isn't about vegetables specifically, but it is about local farming. Many growers on the California central coast that farm near the hills have a terrible time with wild pigs, they can do a great deal of damage in one night. We are lucky to have never, even once, been bothered by wild pigs. -julia
I turned to face him. He was a typical Salinas Valley white boy - buzz cut hairdo, gimme cap, sun glasses, four-wheel drive pick up truck with a K-Tom bumper sticker and probably a family or child support payments in the background. When pigs were domesticated the lowest of the low, the prodigal sons, slopped them and mucked out their pens. But the nobility still preferred the flavor of the hunt. Kings kept vast game reserves to preserve the fierce boar for the hunt and to preserve their own noble role as the baddest predator of the forest. The boar I fed as a child were descended from animals rounded up off the dead Czar's hunting grounds in Eastern Poland by the cash-starved Bolsheviks and sold to an American capitalist sportsman with a ranch in the hills behind Carmel.
"I come by your property at night with my dogs," said the driver. "They track the boar and corner them. I move in with a flashlight, a bowie knife and a javelin. If I don't kill the boar with the first spear thrust I'll finish it off with the knife."
"I don't promise I can kill every pig on your ranch but I do promise the ones that get away won't ever come back. pigs are smart, see, boar and dogs have been enemies way back into history. Boar communicate. When the word gets around you're putting dogs on the job and there's a crazy guy closing the deal with a spear the pigs will go bother someone else."
"Do you charge?"
"I get a charge out of it, plus I keep the meat to feed my dogs. Otherwise it's free. Fish and Game, with their traps and their baiting- a bunch of crap - they're never going to solve the problem. My program gets results. I've got good references.
"Do you need a depredation permit?"
"Not me, I'm discrete."
copyright 2003 Andy Griffin
|These are Charentais Melons. Some wild boar especially liked these on our friend Greg's farm near Hollister a couple of years ago.|